POLITICS

Janitors Union Endorses Nina Turner For Congress In Ohio

Organized labor is picking sides in a critical 2021 House special election to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge.

A union that represents nearly 2,000 Ohio janitors and food service workers endorsed former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner in the Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.

Service Employees International Union Local 1, which has 500 members in Ohio’s 11th, credited Turner’s long-standing support for union priorities like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Working families in the district “have seen Nina’s passion and know she will be a warrior who fights for us in Congress,” Yanela Sims, SEIU Local 1 vice president and Ohio state director, said in a statement. “Nina will be a powerful voice on the issues that matter to working families: $15 and a union, clean air and water and real investment in our communities.” 

Turner’s history as an ally of organized labor goes back to her days as a state senator from 2008 to 2014. When then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) tried to gut public-sector unions’ collective bargaining rights in 2011, Turner traveled the state campaigning in favor of a referendum that overturned Kasich’s bill.

“The house of labor certainly has not forgotten that,” Turner told HuffPost. “I’m on their side and they’re on my side.”

Turner already had the endorsement of SEIU District 1199, which represents health care workers and public employees in the state. She also has the backing of the National Nurses United, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ union Local 19, and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is trying to unionize Amazon warehouse workers.

Sims told HuffPost in a Tuesday interview that SEIU Local 1 had evaluated candidates for endorsements in conjunction with SEIU District 1199.

A committee of union staff members and rank-and-file workers interviewed candidates by video chat and chose Turner, because of her history of support for the $15 minimum wage and opposition to efforts to deprive Ohio public-sector workers of collective bargaining rights, Sims said. Sims also appreciated Turner’s “passionate” and plain-spoken style.

“It was her being straightforward, clear, concise ― no garbage trying to talk around any issues,” Sims said. “Whether it was the answer we wanted or not, she gave you the feeling she was telling the truth.”

Turner has some competition for labor endorsements, though. Shontel Brown, a Cuyahoga County Council member and chair of the county Democratic Party, has won the support of a total of 16 labor unions, including a regional arm of the United Auto Workers and virtually every building trades union in the Cleveland area.

Turner, Brown, and five other Democrats are competing in an Aug. 3 special election primary to fill the seat that had been held by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge. President Joe Biden tapped Fudge, who had represented the district since 2008, for the Cabinet post in early December.

The Democratic primary contest, sure to determine the general election winner in the solid-blue district, is shaping up to be another proxy war between the Democratic Party’s left wing and its center-left establishment. Turner is the favorite of left-leaning unions, progressive politicians and activist groups, while more moderate unions and Democratic stakeholders prefer Brown.

Lately, though, Turner has also been gaining traction outside of her core progressive base. SEIU Local 1’s endorsement adds to Turner’s momentum as she locks up support from progressive figures, as well as from Democrats more associated with the party establishment, like Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson

“I’m building a coalition of progressives and Democrats who may identify in other ways,” Turner said. “We’re bringing one happy family together in one pursuit: To help me become the next congresswoman from the 11th congressional district.”

Turner said on Monday that she had raised more than $2.2 million since announcing her campaign in December, and has more than $1 million in cash on hand.

Brown has raised $680,000, though her fundraising pace is accelerating. She raised $180,000 in the final week of March alone, according to her campaign.

Nina Turner is racking up labor union endorsements in her bid to win an open U.S. House seat in Ohio. Turner's moderate rival
Nina Turner is racking up labor union endorsements in her bid to win an open U.S. House seat in Ohio. Turner's moderate rival Shontel Brown has union endorsements of her own.
HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Scenes From Capitol Hill